Sustainable development and testable objectives are generally accepted principles of Dutch spatial policy. When decisions are being made about area development, the ecological goods and services supplied by the rural area must be given the same consideration as other functions. A plan is only ecologically sustainable if the planned spatial and abiotic conditions are realistic, feasible and compatible with the selected nature conservation target. To make such an assessment you need criteria based on knowledge about ecological sustainability in the planning: ecoplanning indicators. These are quality criteria that can be used to measure the ecological sustainability of area plans. Derived from theory on ecology and planning, they are so generic that they can be applied in very diverse situations.
Key indicators have been developed: these say something about the chosen objectives, spatial cohesion and achievable conditions, and indicate which aspects of an area plan are ecologically sustainable. A study of 42 recent area plans has revealed, however, that most plans score poorly on the key indicators. Awareness indicators have therefore been developed, to indicate the planners’ awareness of ecological sustainability, and with the aim of stimulating a learning process in the application of ecological knowledge.
Area plans could be made more ecologically sustainable if indicators of their ecological quality were available. Though we’re at an early stage in the development and application of indicators of this type, it’s clear that they have the potential to become accepted standards at some point in the future.
Key factors are important when drawing up spatial plans because they indicate the requirements a plan must satisfy in order to be ecologically sustainable. Both the key factors and the awareness factors are used when evaluating spatial plans, to obtain insights into the ecological sustainability of the plans.